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GAR 100 - 9th Edition

O’Melveny & Myers

18 February 2016

The firm helped Samsung reach a settlement with Microsoft

Pending cases as counsel: 20
Value of pending counsel work: US$1.6 billion
Current arbitrator appointments: 6 (of which 6 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator: 2

O’Melveny & Myers cut its teeth in international arbitration by bringing claims on behalf of US investors before the Iran-US Claims Tribunal in the 1980s, and went on to establish a stand-alone practice in 1991, run from San Francisco.

It has since expanded eastwards in the US and into Europe and Asia, where the firm has a particularly big practice. In Asia, it was home for several years to Michael Moser, now one of the region’s most in-demand arbitrators. Thanks to him, the practice established a great reputation for China-related work, particularly if the case needs Chinese-language skills. For example, it represented a Chinese retailer in the first HKIAC case to be conducted solely in Mandarin – a dispute with its Taiwanese joint venture partner over an investment in a Beijing shopping centre that eventually settled favourably to the client.

Moser ended his consultancy role with the firm in 2010 to become a full-time independent arbitrator, leaving San Francisco-based partner Steve Smith as the senior figure. Smith left for Jones Day in 2013.

Network

The firm’s international arbitration dispute resolution head in Europe is David Foster in London, whom it recruited from Watson Farley & Williams in 2007. Counsel Hayley Ichilcik has a growing profile in the area.

In Asia, responsibility for the practice in China and Singapore has passed to Moser’s protégé, Friven Yeoh in Hong Kong and Singapore, who made partner in 2009. He’s aided by counsel Desmond Ang in Hong Kong.

Denis Brock further bolstered the practice in Hong Kong when he joined from King & Wood Mallesons in 2014. He now serves as chair of the firm’s international disputes and arbitration practice and regional head of litigation for Asia.

Who uses it?

The firm is acting for Genting Energy in ongoing disputes over one of its power plants in China, involving claims that a state-owned power company failed to facilitate a promised tariff adjustment. The value of the claims exceeds US$320 million.

Another client is the Hong Kong investment vehicle of US-Canadian brewer Molson Coors, in a dispute with a Chinese joint venture partner concerning operations in north-east China.

The London team has represented Apollo, Rio Tinto, the International Olympic Committee, insurance and reinsurance group ACE and financial transactions broker ICAP.

Also on the firm’s books are Google, Vivendi, Bechtel and a Swiss affiliate of the world’s largest perfume producer, Coty.

Track record

O’Melveny & Myers has defeated claims against Duke Energy and Mitsubishi, winning costs each time. Smith led counsel in both of those disputes, as he did in one of the firm’s very first cases, securing US$21 million settlement for defence electronics company Thomson-CSF.

The firm clinched “a complete win” for US insurer ACE in a dispute against Canadian satellite operator Telesat. A tribunal seated in Toronto interpreted a settlement agreement in the insurer’s favour, dismissing claims against it by the satellite operator.

The firm has had success in three separate arbitrations on behalf of US holding company Palmco against Russian uranium exporter JSC Technasbexport, extricated Google from a complex dispute with a Japanese licenseeand successfully defended an LCIA award in favour of Vivendi in the London courts and the European Court of Justice (the caseagainst Poland’s Elektrim is now an important precedent on the application of EU insolvency regulation).

Working with Korea’s Bae Kim & Lee, the firm helped secure a “highly favourable” settlement for Korean online gaming company Mgame Corporation in a royalties dispute with its former licensee in North America and Turkey for the game Knight Online. The dispute played out in several fora, including SIAC arbitration and US and Turkish courts.

Yeoh also achieved favourable settlements for Coty and the Chinese pharma company WuXi AppTec in a SIAC dispute arising from a services agreement with the US’s Everest Biosciences, and for a Coty subsidiary at the HKIAC in disputes that grew out of a share purchase agreement.

Recent events

In 2015, the firm helped Samsung Electronics settle an ICC arbitration and related US court litigation with Microsoft in a dispute over patent royalties.

It continues to defend UK records management and security company Oasis Group in an US$80 million Chinese-language arbitration commenced by the company’s former shareholders under a stock repurchase agreement, and two Mongolian miners in a US$100 million dispute with a Japanese trading house over the purchase of mining equipment.

The firm welcomed YongSang Kim as counsel in Washington, DC. Kim previously worked at Arnold & Porter for nine years and has experience in investor-state disputes.

Client comment

Jun Hee Kim, general counsel at Hyundai Heavy Industries, was complimentary about Friven Yeoh, describing him as a “sophisticated arbitration lawyer with a keen intellect and… a pleasure to work with.”

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